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Ombudsman resolves first NPL disputes

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades with Financial Ombudsman (R) Pavlos Ioannou

By Angelos Anastasiou

SIX out of eight cases referred to the Financial Ombudsman’s office relating to €1.2m worth of previously non-performing loans (NPLs) were successfully restructured, ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou announced on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Ioannou, Finance minister Harris Georgiades expressed satisfaction that a very important institution – the Financial Ombudsman – is now “fully operational”.

The Finance minister reaffirmed the government’s interest in the growth, effectiveness and proper staffing of the ombudsman’s operation, as well as the improvement of its legislative framework.

Ioannou said that the ombudsman’s office is dealing with 35 mediation cases, of which eight have been completed – six successfully.

He added that complaints received are “many and diverse”, and noted that he expects many more to be received from oversight authorities shortly.

Most complaints are filed against banks, but some relate to investment products, the ombudsman said, and called on interested borrowers whose loan parameters are in scope to seek the ombudsman’s mediation services.

Georgiades noted that the Financial Ombudsman’s role is to offer an out-of-court mediating option to borrowers who are in conflict with banks or insurance companies, who might otherwise be forced to launch time-consuming court procedures.

“The mediation and settlement effort offered by the Financial Ombudsman’s office fills a substantial gap, bringing our financial sector on par with best practices internationally,” he said.

According to the Finance minister, the office is currently staffed with over 20 people, while the government has allocated additional staff on a temporary basis to facilitate the timely operation of the service.

He added that a list of certified mediators has already been drafted, comprising almost 200 mediators.

Asked whether an earlier view voiced by Ioannou on the need to amend the law to include holders of bank securities so that their complaints can also be reviewed by the ombudsman’s office, Georgiades said this was an “isolated matter”, adding that “some complaints have already been filed”.

“Whenever legislative amendments are required, the government is ready to cooperate in bringing any suggestions before the Parliament,” he said.

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